Experiencing Soot Damage in the Home

Experiencing Soot Damage in the Home

Soot damage can occur in the home for several reasons, though fire is among the most common. Having soot damage in your home can lead to several questions, most of which involve cleaning or restoring areas and specific items.

There are also a few surprising sources of soot damage, like candles. Being aware of the dangers of fire in your home is a good starting point for keeping soot away. That said, it helps to have a few tips for dealing with soot damage in its various forms.

Tips for Soot Damage Removal

It is important to note that there are two different types of soot damage: dry and oily. Knowing which kind you are dealing with can help you remove damage more effectively. You can simply run your finger across the soot to find out what kind it is. If it runs or smears, then the soot is oily.

Oily Soot 

To remove oily soot, you will need some kind of degreasing agent. It is also possible that there is dry soot in one area of the home while another has oily soot. A degreasing agent will break down the soot, making it easier to wipe away.

Dry Soot 

Dry soot is a little easier to deal with. You can use dry cleaning sponges to wipe away dry soot. Dry soot is a little less messy to deal with depending on how long it has been allowed to remain.

Before you attempt to soot removal in Philadelphia of any form, it is important to get as much of the dry soot up as possible. Use a HEPA vacuum cleaner to start your cleanup efforts, though a lambswool duster will also do the job.

Keep in mind that comprehensive soot damage may not be cleanable. If the residue simply does not dissipate with cleaning and time, then you may have to replace the item in question.

Can You Get Soot Damage From Candles?

Though they may seem harmless, soot damage can occur from burning low-quality candles for long periods. Black soot deposition is the term and it is caused by household, decorative items like candles.

Generally speaking, the reason is that the candles in question are of lower quality. These types of candles have extra fragrance oils added in, which aren’t suitable for burning. There are also amateur candle-makers out there who may not have the proper experience or training to create safer, better-quality candles.

Using candles in the home is fine so long as they are not left to burn for long periods. Some vendors create safer, clean-burning candles that lead to far less volatile organic compounds and emissions. Should cheaper candles be used, it is important that they not burn for long periods.

What is the Best Way to Clean Soot?

There are two certainties regardless of the material or object in question. The first is that you need to get to the soot as soon as possible. If an area is untouched for five days, removal of the soot will be all but impossible. The second is removing as much of the dry soot as possible before using any cleaning products.

To be effective at cleaning soot, you need to know the material in question. There are different means for cleaning hard surfaces, vinyl, leather, carpeting, and more. One solution may not work for the others, so make sure to do your homework.

How to Clean Soot After a House Fire

In terms of a house fire, there are so many areas that can be impacted. Knowing how to approach each unique situation can help you ensure the best chances of a total clean. Let’s take a look at a few different surfaces/materials like carpet, vinyl siding, furniture, and hard surfaces.


Cleaning vinyl should be done with a pressure washer but can also be done by hand. Just make sure to use a pliable brush. Though there are vinyl cleaners, plastic resin cleaner, rubbing mix, and automotive polishing can be used to remove soot damage to exterior vinyl (think siding).

Hard surfaces 

Hard surfaces are generally the easiest to clean so long as you get to them within the 5-day window. That said, you do need a specialized cleaner – make sure to follow the instructions if you plan on diluting it in any way. It is also important to consider surfaces that aren’t water-resistant before you start cleaning.


Fabric-covered furniture can hold in those odors from smoke, soot, and fire for a long time. Without treatment, the smell will persist and even contaminate the room at large. 

For cushion covers, take them off and launder them. The rest can be cleaned using a vacuum and baking soda. Give the baking soda 24 hours to absorb the smell; it may take more than one application. Leather should be professionally cleaned given how easy it is to damage or scratch the material.


Time is of the essence when cleaning carpets. Soot can quickly discolor or stain carpeting, so vacuuming and steam cleaning right away can be helpful. Synthetic carpet should be shampooed and dried, though some steam cleaners will pull up the soot and dirt. When you are done, rinse, dry, and use baking soda to remove any lingering odor.

How to Clean Soot Off of Walls

It is important to get to the soot as soon as you can. Determine whether you are dealing with oily or dry soot as it can help you to choose the right cleaner. From there, a few simple steps are required.

1.) Vacuum The Area 

No matter what kind of soot you are dealing with, make sure to vacuum up all of the dry soot in the area. It will make cleanup a little easier on the whole.

2.) Dry Soot 

For dry soot, use a dry cleaning sponge. For painted surfaces, start from the top, slowly moving down. For wood, go with the grain to prevent damage. You can rinse your sponges, but if they become too oversaturated, swap them out. You can also use melamine scrubbing sponges as well. Baking soda can work but it may damage finished woodwork. It is great for removing odor as well.

3.) Wet Soot 

Cleaning agents are required for dry soot that won’t come up or oily/wet soot. Just be careful when mixing water as it can drip, which will only cause the soot to spread. Degreasing agents are great for this purpose. There are even some soot removers, though those work in small doses. The agent will do the work, so don’t worry about scrubbing hard as that can damage the surface.

4.) Priming/Painting 

There is a chance that some minor stains may remain even after cleaning. So long as the smell does not persist, painting the area may be the best bet. Make sure to use a stain-blocking primer. Depending on the primer in question, you may be able to use one coat but it might take more. Ensure the area is well-ventilated when using paint.

How to Clean Soot Off of Brick

Soot on brick most commonly occurs where there are fireplaces. With frequent use (and infrequent cleaning), soot can begin to stain the brick. Since bricks are porous, wiping away the soot won’t do the trick. Here are a few helpful tips for cleaning soot off of brick.

1.) Clear Out The Space and Wet The Bricks 

You never want to do work in a warm/hot fireplace. Take out the grate as well as any ashes that might be best. Vacuum the space out so you can remove as much of the dust and soot as you can.

When it is free and clear of soot and dust, saturate the bricks using plain water. Make sure to put a waterproof drop cloth down before you do so. Because the brick is porous, it will absorb the water. This is beneficial because when you clean, you want the solution to stay on the surface, not get sucked into the tiny little pores. A spray bottle or masonry sponge should do the trick.

2.) Mixing The Cleaning Solution

There are more than a few solutions out there to choose from. Dishwashing detergent, Scrubbing Bubbles, and even vinegar can do the trick. If you use a stronger cleaner, you will need to dilute it with water. Make sure to follow the manufacturer’s instructions on how to do so.

3.) Scrub and Rinse 

Gentle cleaners can be sprayed on or lightly applied using a bucket and sponge. Work top to bottom so that the dirty water doesn’t drip into areas you may have cleaned already. Work in small areas as well since you don’t want the brick to dry out. You may need to reapply for tougher soot stains.

When you have scrubbed a small area, rinse before moving on. Use a clean, soap-free sponge to rinse the spot. Change out your water when the bucket starts to get soapy or dirty. It may require you to change out the water a few times throughout a cleaning session.

4.) Spot Clean 

Keep working across the brick, getting as much of the soot out as you can. You might have to go back and spot-clean some areas that are more stubborn than others. In this instance, a paste of baking soda and water is most effective. Let the paste sit for 5-10 minutes before scrubbing and rinsing.

Final Thoughts on Soot Damage and Cleaning Soot

Dealing with soot in any form can be difficult. In the wake of a fire, in particular, it can be all too easy to overlook the impact that soot and smoke can have. If you have been recently impacted by a fire or have a soot buildup in your home, Philadelphia restoration services can assist.

In the end, it is not only about finding a remediation service that can repair the damage but about removing the potential hazards of soot and smoke damage as well. A professional restoration and remediation service can ensure that your home is safe to return to in the wake of a fire, soot, and smoke damage. Give us a call today.

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